Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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Problem Is Opportunity
By Akrura Dasa   |  Nov 01, 2008

In this article I will give you several principles and perspectives that will help you become more happy, more successful and more creative and productive in your life. These principles will be useful only if you apply them.

God Is Pleased If We Cooperate

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam there is a story of Pracetas, sons of King Pracinabarhiṣat, who were performing austerities under water for a long time by chanting the Song of Lord Shiva. It is a very nice prayer, a song which describes Krishna and asks Krishna for mercy and benedictions. Pracetas were doing this together, and Lord Vishnu was so pleased with their friendly relationship and cooperation that He came on His carrier Garuda to see them and said that they may ask Him for any benediction. This shows how, when devotees cooperate, when they work together, Krishna descends or comes and is ready to give them anything they need to serve Krishna or to spread Krishna consciousness.

We are all different individuals and we have different opinions about things, even in devotional service, but Srila Prabhupada says that these opinions are considered to be spiritual, because the goal is one: to please Krishna.

We Don’t Know Who Is Who

There is a story that explains a very important point – that we don’t know who is who among us. Once there was a monastery full of monks. Many people were visiting, but over time the monks started to quarrel amongst themselves. Gradually, people stopped coming. The atmosphere became very bad. After this situation went on for some time, one of them decided to consult a sage who was living nearby, “How can we bring back visitors and how can we bring back the good atmosphere in the monastery that we once had?” The sage said, “Come to me tomorrow, and I will give you an answer.”

The next day, few of the monks from the monastery came and asked him, “So, what shall we do?” The sage said, “I was meditating a lot and praying about this and I have to tell you that one of you is messiah, one of you is the saviour. So you have to be careful with each monk. I cannot reveal who he is, but you have to be careful, because any of you can be a messiah.” Thus they started treating each other with great respect. They didn’t know who the messiah is but they followed sage’s advice. Gradually, the whole atmosphere changed and people started visiting the monastery again. There was no politics, there was no back-biting.

Now, it doesn’t matter whether that was true or not, because in one sense it is true. Everyone is potentially a saint, at least. Therefore, we need to learn to see people in terms of their potential, not in terms of their present performance or behaviour. And the potential of everyone, as we know from the scriptures, is that they are sac-cid-ananda, a spirit soul who is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, part and parcel of Krishna. So they deserve our respect.

We may think this person is a software expert from IBM or a football player or a musician, but we actually don’t know who is who and therefore we need to respect every single person and every single devotee. Especially those who come to Krishna consciousness, they are so rare, so few. Therefore every such soul is extremely special and deserves our respect and affection.

Every Soul Is Amazing

For example, if you have a child and you see your child in terms child’s present behaviour, you will go crazy. But if you see your child in terms of the potential this child could manifest in the future, you will be patient, you will believe in the child and you will support the child, so the child can grow. Thus it is very important how we see people. We should not see them based on just what we see externally or at the present moment. The people’s form that we see at the moment is an expression of their conditioning in time and space. Some people, when they look in the mirror, may be very impressed. They think that nature was very kind to them. They think they look very nice. But actually it is a temporary form. It’s not the real you. Similarly, what we see when we look at somebody is not the soul, is not the real person, and that soul which is within the body is actually amazing. Bhagavad-gita (2.29) says that the soul is amazing.

“Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.”

I had a slogan for my coaching service “Every soul is amazing!” It’s a motivational slogan inspired by this verse from the Gita. To me, it has two meanings. Everyone is amazing in two ways. You’re amazing in a sense that you have an enormous potential which is not used and you can release that potential. Another way in which everybody is amazing, especially the conditioned souls, is that they are amazingly foolish. We are experts at sabotaging ourselves; we are experts in being our own enemy. Even among devotees this habit is very prominent. I coach hundreds of devotees all over the world and most of them have this habit. They are experts in how to act against their own self-interest. So we have to stop that.

Become Your Own Coach

The devotee has to become his own friend. If you say, “I have no support. No one cares about me.” – then what can you do? You have to start supporting yourself. It’s important how you talk to yourself. We know about negative internal and positive internal dialogue. If you talk to yourself and say, “You are bad, you are useless, you are never going to make it to the spiritual world!” – in this way you’re preventing yourself from going forward. But if you tell yourself, “Well, you are maybe fallen and hopeless but Krishna is almighty, for Him anything is possible. He can take even you to the spiritual world and even you can become a pure devotee.” In this way you have a hope. You will talk to yourself in a positive way and say okay, “Get up. You are useless. That’s true. Now get up and MOVE! Do something!. Don’t lament and just find excuses.”

When I coach people, I ask them what do they want. And they say, ‘I want this.’ Okay, so what’s stopping you from having it? And then they give a huge list of excuses. We then work with this list and we try to eliminate all these excuses. When we look very deeply into what’s stopping you from becoming happier, more successful, more Krishna conscious, we see that the greatest obstacle is actually – you. You are your greatest obstacle. Prabhupada once said that we are own greatest obstacle. External obstacles may be few percent but most of it, say 95 percent, is inside, in the mind. “I cannot do it. I am incapable” Therefore you have to learn to become your own life-coach and cheer up yourself.

Raise Your Hands Frequently

Sometimes we are down. Some people are down all the time, very rarely they are up. Some people are occasionally down. But whenever you are down, whether it is non-stop or it’s occasional, you have to learn to lift yourself up. I am teaching devotees a very simple technique. Let’s do a little exercise. Please get up and raise your hands! Now try as hard as you can to be frustrated in this position. Is it possible? Try to be depressed, dejected, sad. Some of you may be experts in this thing, even with raised hands. But actually it is very difficult. If you want to change your mood, you just change your posture and Gaura-Nitai are teaching us from the altar to raise our hands. Immediately your mood will change.

Once I was coaching on the phone a young lady who was depressed most of the time and I told her, “Put the phone down and raise your hands.” She did it. “How do you feel now?” She said, “Well, I feel better.” I said, “You can always do that to change the way you feel.” Unfortunately people don’t like to do this. We like to be frustrated, we like to be sad, because then we can continue to be self-centred and self-absorbed.

It’s very easy, instead of going for seven years to psychotherapy, you can cheer yourself up by raising your hands. And if you start doing swami step it’s even more difficult to remain frustrated and if you start chanting Hare Krishna, practically it’s gone completely. All the frustration is gone. But we think, “This is too simple. I have to take some pills. And I have to go and talk the same thing to the psychotherapist. And I have to lament and I have to be hopeless and I have to complain about life and people and the universe.” With this simple thing, you can change your life. I suggest you do it every day, raise your hands any time of a day and see what happens. It’s even good as an exercise. Krishna has given us very simple techniques and similarly there are so many other tools in the Bhagavad-gita. What to speak of chanting Hare Krishna attentively.

Stop Blocking Yourself

Prabhupada said preaching is the essence. If we want to preach Krishna consciousness, we have to somehow sort out ourselves first. Become happy, realise Krishna consciousness, realise that this is the process which is the source of all happiness and then we can give it to others. We can fire up people in our town and we can show them that this is the real knowledge. The science of happiness is given in the scriptures.

The success formula is simple for those who are intelligent. Personal effort plus Lord’s mercy equals success. Try to make some effort. If you make an effort to chant one round a day, or two or chant five rounds a day, that invokes Krishna’s mercy. In this way, we can change our lives, we can be happy, we can work with other devotees to spread Krishna consciousness, we can preach, but we have to start moving. We have to stop blocking ourselves.

Don’t Think “If Onlys”

Did you hear about “if onlys”? “If only I wouldn’t be a family man, I could be a preacher.” Well, that’s not true. You can be a preacher even as a family man. “If only my wife would be more kind to me, I would be more happy and more Krishna conscious.” “If only I would have more money.”

I joke when I give talks in London. People come to London and they say, “You know what, I just want some money. That’s all.” “Well you’re really unique! Nobody ever told me that they just want some money.” People think that if they get money, they will become happy. Even if they are spiritually inclined, they think of money. Money will make them happy. So people want and get the same material things and they all think this is unique. Like when you buy Nike tennis shoes or the gear. It’s all the same and everybody thinks “I’m really special”. Similarly, people have same motivations, same desires, and they think, if only I would have this, then I would be happy. They don’t consider that these things didn’t make anyone happy in the history of this planet.

Be Grateful

It may be that you already have everything to be happy, but you don’t see it. You don’t appreciate what you already have. I advise devotees that every day, every morning when you wake up, write down ten things you’re grateful to the Lord for. And see how your life changes.

There was one guy who did an incredibly simple thing. He invented a “gratitude stone.” He would take some stones from the ground and they would remind him to be grateful for certain things. He started selling them also. Many people reported to him that he changed their life with the stones because the stones helped them become more grateful for what they have.

There are so many less fortunate people. They have no hands or no legs. We do have two hands, two legs, we have a head. Some people have a head but it doesn’t work! We have a head which works quite a bit. We have so many instruments that we can use to actually become very happy and successful.

Today people who almost have no brains, they become successful, just by being persistent. And what to speak of you, you have mercy of God already with you. You have maha mantra, prasadam, association fo devotees and wonderful Srila Prabhupada’s books. It’s amazing what we can do if we just become aware of and grateful for what we already have.

Learn To Look Around You

I have learned from a marketing expert to become more aware of what’s around me. He wrote, “You have so many opportunities around you to become very happy and successful but the problem is, you don’t see them.” In this way, we almost are as good as blind. So I want to teach you opportunity thinking. Become an opportunist. And it’s simple. Just ask yourself, “What this problem is an opportunity for?” or “What hidden opportunities lay in this problem?”

Let’s say you have no job. It’s a problem. What is this problem an opportunity for?

Go out and start search for a job, get a very nice job, find out what is your strength, start to preach, start something else, learn more so you can expand your skills, look at your life from a different angle (like birds eye view), see what direction do you want to go, decide more clearly. These are all opportunities. If you list them and if you read them, you can become enlivened. There is no problem any more. There is no problem, just an opportunity. So if we change the way we think, our life will change. The problem is the way we think. We think in a such a way as to limit ourselves. But higher intelligence is telling us, don’t limit yourself, expand your options. There is so much opportunity.

Sometimes here in London people live in squats. They will come to one place and there is nothing there or it’s a mess and they think “We don’t have this, we don’t have that.” When they look around a little bit, there is so much already there: there is a light bulb, a candle, a mattress, a table. Then they make friends with the neighbours and they also help a little.

Few years ago, we had an exercise during the Teacher Training Course at the Bhaktivedanta College Radhadesh. We were asked to build a temple out of nothing. The teacher said, “Go out and get what you need.” All three groups had to make a temple. Somehow I happened to be a leader of one group. I had no idea what to do. I didn’t know where to get things because I don’t know Radhadesh so well. Some devotees went out, some used things from the classroom, and it was amazing what they made out of nothing – three beautiful temples. My group was so together, my team found everything and they made the best temple out of three groups and we won (none of my credit). Do what you can, with what you have, right where you are.

There is also a story how first tampura was made. Someone was walking down the road and found a wire and then a pumpkin and a stick, and he connected them and this was the first tampura. It was made of three things which, on their own, are more or less useless for making music.

Similarly, if you learn in your life to look around, it will help you enormously. If you go back to your home, just look at what you already have and how you can use it to your advantage. Just think of the people you have in your life, who can support you or give you good advice, even perhaps give you money to start a project. There is so much opportunity. We need to look and take it.

An Abundant Universe

God’s universe is full of abundance. We have this scarcity mentality: “Oh, I don’t have this, I don’t have that.” We think something is always lacking, but it’s not true. This is an abundant universe. We limit ourselves and our options because of the way we think.

I used to have this mentality and still have it to some extent, but gradually it’s changing. I can see that I have everything I need. Of course, I also train myself to not need very much but that’s another story. Anyway, if you develop this opportunity thinking or possibility thinking, your life will change.

Turning A Problem Into An Opportunity

I heard stories about people who are very disabled. One guy first had an aeroplane accident, survived, but remained paralysed. Then he burned himself completely in a motorbike accident. Nowadays he is a motivational speaker. Can you imagine?! His face is still burnt, he can’t walk, he doesn’t even have hands, but the guy is so happy and successful.

When he was in a hospital, a nice-looking nurse came to take care of him. This guy decided to marry her. He looks almost like a monster, he but his mind is so focused, so strong. She is now his wife and she is happy to have such a husband. I’m not just talking, you can see him on the Internet, he writes books, gives talks to large audiences.

People have such extreme difficulties in their lives. It’s much worse than anything we went through. This man turned a huge problem into an opportunity. Similarly, in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says:

“O Partha, happy are the ksatriyas to whom such fighting opportunities come unsought, opening for them the doors of the heavenly planets.” Bg 2.32

Arjuna saw fighting as a problem, but Krishna explained that this is an opportunity. The biggest problem is not the problem itself, but the way we see the problem. Train yourself to see problems as opportunities and to turn problems into opportunities and your life will improve in a way that will surprise you and enliven both you and the people you care about.

Akrura dasa is a spiritual life coach who currently travels around Europe teaching about devotee care and coaching devotees. Contact: